Louise Hugo (1909-1970) joins the Daly Family

Louise Hugo was born in 1909 on the farm Non Pareille, Dal Josaphat in the Western Cape. This Hugo house is now Heritage listed. Her father, Petrus Hugo, inherited the farm as a young lad but there were so many siblings and so many responsibilities that he left and the farm was taken over by his uncle. He became a “bywoner”, ending up on the farm of the Mostert family near Nigel in the Transvaal.

Louise was the fourth of six children; they were so poor that Louise was taken from school at the age of fourteen to become the childminder for her Tant Anna’s children. This was a stroke of luck. Years earlier, when the Anglo-Boer War broke out the Hugo family was still in the Cape and had no sympathy for the cause of what they saw as the uncouth Boers of the Transvaal. But Louise’s aunt, Tant Anna, married Will Smith who, name notwithstanding, had fought with the Boers, been captured and sent as a prisoner of war to Ceylon. In the years that he spent there he was exposed to people of learning and he acquired an enduring respect for education.

Louise was so small that she had to stand on a box to do the washing up. Some nights, sitting at the kitchen table, Will Smith talked to Louise and he decided she was a smart girl. She deserved better. He enrolled her in a scholarship examination for the Volkskool, Heidelberg and she was awarded the scholarship. Her parents immediately went in their donkeycart all the way to the capital, Pretoria, to ask the authorities to allow Louise’s young brother Pierre, to have the scholarship instead. To their credit, they refused.

Volkskool Heidelberg was an ambitious school set up in a community devastated by the Angle-Boer War losses, including the need to care for orphans from the nearby concentration camp. The aim was to promote Afrikaner culture and values and to ensure a superior education for Afrikaner children. In time the Volkskool was extended to include a teachers’ training college.[1]

Louise was terrified of going there. She lied about her age, reducing it by two years to hide the time spent as a childminder. In Heidelberg Louise received a thorough academic education, grounded in Afrikaner tradition.  She played sport, sang in the choir and acted in plays. She was in her element.

At the end of high school she was awarded the medal as Dux of the school. Two of her uncles had helped to pay her extra education costs and continued to support her when she went trained as a teacher in the Heidelberg teachers training college. Louise started her teaching career in local schools. She became a competent, refined and very elegant young woman.

As a condition of her teaching scholarship Louise had to accept placements elsewhere. It was to the Bushveld, the Waterberg, that she was sent. She boarded in the homes of local people. Louise was no stranger to poverty but the situation here was challenging beyond her experience. In one house before she went to sleep, she would catch bedlice on a sewing needle and burn them in the candle flame. In another posting in Vaalwater, she asked where the lavatory was and the owner gestured to the veld with the comment, “Niggie, die wêreld is wyd!” (Cousin, the world is wide). The intellectually challenged son of the family followed her into the veld on these toilet trips. There was a bathroom but it was used to store the farms’ crop of maize. She was teaching in areas which Louis Leipoldt in his book, Bushveld Doctor, described as a primitive backveld with the children suffering from the debilitating effects of disease like malaria.[2] But she loved the children and she believed the feeling was mutual.

Then Louise was posted to a school near Pietersburg (now Polokwane) where Clifford Ackhurst, the brother-in-law of Ramsay Daly, was also teaching. At a local dance she met Ramsay in his London “glad rags”. These two elegant people were fated to be together. When he asked her to marry him he said that, of course, they would not have children because he was already 48 years old. Her response was that, in that case, there would be no marriage. He conceded. Jeanne was born in 1940 and was christened in the Dutch Reformed Church. Then came Ramsay L’Amy (known as Bill) and the third child, Karine, was born when Ramsay was 56 years old.

Louise was a social person and she found life in the Bushveld difficult but did her best. She staged plays in which the neighbours were encouraged to take part. She gave children’s parties for Christmas Eve. Her life revolved around her children, her very many pet animals and constant contact with her Hugo family who visited regularly and came every July to make biltong and boerewors in quantities to last the family for months. Across the Limpopo River was Ramsay’s brother, Charles and his London-born wife, Marian, with whom she formed a close, lifelong bond.

Potentially Ramsay and Louise could have been at odds as he had acquired a deep respect for English cultural life in his time in London and she was imbued with Afrikaner culture. The two cultures coexisted. He kept the house full of English language literature. She gave her children a love of Afrikaans poetry and song, leading them in the lusty singing needed for Eitemal’s poem:

Die ruimtes het ons siel gevoed,
ons kan g’n slawe wees,
want vryer as die arendsvlug,
die vlugte van ons gees.[3]
The open spaces nourished our souls,
we cannot be slaves
freer than the flight of the eagle,
the flight of our spirit.

[1] http://www.laervolkskool.co.za/geskiedeni/geskiedeniss.asp

[2] Leipoldt CL. Bushveld Doctor. Jonathan Cape, London, 1937.

[3] http://tortel.net/~lochner/blerkas/woorde/031.txt